What's the big Harry deal?

Think "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" conjured some magic last holiday season? Even bigger things are expected this year, as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) return to action Friday for "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."

Year two at Hogwarts starts off ominously, as a house elf named Dobby warns Harry that trouble awaits if he goes back to school. Harry goes--what could be worse than living with the Dursleys?--and trouble indeed looms. A mysterious force is turning people to stone, and someone has opened the dreaded Chamber of Secrets. Can Harry, Hermione and Ron save the day, or is--as many people believe--Harry wreaking all the havoc?

KidNews recently spoke with Radcliffe, 13, who's a few inches taller and speaking in a deeper voice; Watson, 12, still as bright as can be; and Grint, 14, who's grown taller and thinner and remains the funny one of the trio.

Q. "Chamber" has more action and is darker than "Sorcerer's Stone." Do you think younger kids will be frightened by certain scenes, like the spider sequence?

Radcliffe: I don't think so. It's all in the book, and if you take away the darkness from the film, then you haven't done the book justice. And so, if they've read the book, I don't think they'll be scared at all.

Watson: I think the fans will be really, really happy with it. I think [for younger moviegoers] it just depends on the parents.

Q. What's the best thing about playing these characters?

Radcliffe: Without a doubt, [it] is playing a character that has inspired children all over the world--and adults.

Watson: It's the acting, which I really enjoy.

Grint: For me it was coughing up slugs and coming to New York.

Q. Do you have a favorite subject at school? And what do you want to be when you grow up?

Watson: I'm not very academic, so I'd have to say sports or art. If it had to be academic, it'd probably be English and history. . . . I have absolutely no idea [what I want to be]. I'm just going to go with the flow.

Radcliffe: I love English at school . . . reading and writing. So I think I might like to be a writer or--because I was given a love of film by [director] Chris Columbus and ["Potter" producer] David Heyman--I might be a director.

Grint: I don't have a favorite subject. I feel I'll carry on doing this [acting] because I really enjoy it.

Q. Can you describe the kind of fan mail you get? Are any of the letters particularly funny or creepy?

Radcliffe: I'm just amazed at the amount of effort [that's put into the letters]. Around my birthday, I got lots of presents. Just the effort that was put into them was unbelievable.

Watson: For my birthday someone gave me a massive, white cuddly bear about as big as me. They sent it in a post to me. I just think that was completely amazing [because] they've never met me.

Grint: It was my sister's birthday and somebody got her something as well.

Q. A special-effects question: Emma, can you talk about being petrified? Daniel, can you tell us about the climactic battle with the snake? And Rupert, can you talk about coughing up slugs?

Watson: There was this amazing wax model of me [looking petrified]. I had to have a whole [body cast] made of me. So I didn't have to actually lie down like this [looking stiff] for a half-hour.

Radcliffe: In the books, the basilisk is supposed to be 80 feet long, I think. They built 25 feet of it, including the head, which was actually quite hard to fight. I kept knocking the teeth out of the mouth, so they had to spend endless hours repairing it.

Grint: The slugs scene was probably my favorite because I had to try out all these different-flavored slimes. There was orange, lemon, peppermint, chocolate . . .

Physical challenges can't keep him down

By Anne Stein. Special to the Tribune.

In some ways, Rudy Garcia-Tolson is just like any other teenager growing up in Southern California--he loves soccer, paintball and zooming around his neighborhood on a skateboard.

But at age 14, Rudy's already a national record holder in swimming and track among athletes with disabilities, with times that beat many non-disabled competitors. He's run a 2:22 half marathon and a 20:08 5k, equal to a 6:35 per mile pace.

Rudy was born with Pterygium Syndrome, a rare, congenital condition that resulted in a clubfoot, webbed fingers and a cleft lip and palate. At age 5, after many surgeries, doctors said he could either spend his life in a wheelchair or have his legs amputated at the knee and learn to walk with prosthetics.

Rudy chose amputation, and, he says, "I never feel sorry for myself, because I'm the one who made the choice. I'm living a great life. I like running, doing triathlons and swimming, and doing inspirational talks."

Since 1999, Rudy has been a spokesman for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which provides grants to people with physical disabilities to pursue sports.

On Tuesday, Rudy, who lives in Bloomington, Calif., will receive the annual Victory Award from the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C. The honor goes to an individual who has overcome physical adversity in life.

And on Oct. 29, Nike presented Rudy with the Casey Martin Award, which recognized his "courage to pursue a sport despite physical challenges."

Rudy races two to three times a month--triathlons, running events and swimming--usually against able-bodied kids, "because I think of myself as a regular kid," he says.

In a short life filled with accomplishments, his biggest so far, he says, has been speaking in front of 50,000 people at the 2002 Paralympic Games: "I talked about my spirit, that it would never fade."

Rudy often teams up with celebrities to do fundraising races, and on Nov. 3 did his fifth San Diego Triathlon Challenge with comedian Robin Williams. The actor approached Rudy five years ago and proposed that they race together.

"You don't see that many movie stars getting out there and riding a bike 56 miles," Rudy says. (Rudy does the 1.2-mile swim; triathlete Scott Tinley does the 13.1 mile run.)

Rudy's short-term goal is to qualify for the Paralympics in swimming. "Long-term, I see myself being a motivational speaker, like I am now," he says. "I talk about my life, what I've overcome, to never give up, and my motto: A brave heart is a powerful weapon."
For more on the Challenged Athletes Foundation, go to